USATSI_9032034_154158418_lowresThe Los Angeles Kings locked down the most integral component of their franchise early Saturday by signing Anze Kopitar to an eight-year contract extension worth an estimated $80 million.

“I’ve been a part of this organization when we went through pretty big struggles and not very fun years when we played,” Kopitar said. “We turned that around and the last few years have been pretty exciting for everybody…knowing we have a winning team here, that’s what makes you want to stay here for an extended period of time.”

As Kings coach Darryl Sutter noted, this isn’t exactly “breaking news.” The Kopitar deal was probably always going to get done, but the numbers had to come around first. The team and the player were willing to take the time to hammer out the terms, with Kopitar’s camp pushing for some of that Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane money.

Payment structure and a no-trade clause were also part of the discussion, so the Kings carved out a front-loaded deal that includes signing bonus payouts to the tune of $9 million this July and next July. The Kopitar camp did give up ironclad lockout protection in order to shove the deal along, but the front-loaded element ensures that he’ll get most of his money in the next few years. That helps mitigate things if there’s a work stoppage in 2020-2021 or beyond.

Kopitar does have a no-movement clause for the first four years of the deal. The extension lets him offer up a seven-team trade list for the final four years, which speaks to just how badly the Kings wanted their man. General manager Dean Lombardi is notoriously against no-trade clauses.

Kopitar is now the highest paid player on the Los Angeles Kings and one of the highest paid players in the National Hockey League. The deal will certainly establish the marker for Tampa Bay and Steven Stamkos, but for now it’s up to the Slovenian centre to prove he’s worth every penny.

With 36 points in 43 games this season, Kopitar is well on his way to doing just that.

In 726 career games, he has 646 points including 230 goals. He has two Stanley Cups in the trophy case so far and looks to be part of a Kings franchise that can do it again and again in the coming years.

But he’s also part of a Kings franchise that will have $48 million tied up in six players next season. Kopitar, defenceman Drew Doughty and forwards Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, and Marian Gaborik join goalie Jonathan Quick is accounting for some serious bank. Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis will be unrestricted free agents come summer and Vincent Lecavalier’s deal will be null and void when he retires at the end of the season.

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